Event: Ben Frost Solaris
Text by CLOT Magazine (Twitter @clotmagazine)
This June, London’s Barbican Centre opened Into The Unknown: A Journey Through Science Fiction. The exhibition, curated by Swiss historian and writer Patrick Gyger explores Science Fiction as an experimental genre and aims to present a new, global perspective. Delving into sci-fi storytelling roots to discover how its visionary creators captured utopias and dystopias around the world.
As part of the exhibition’s parallel events, on Saturday 29th musicians Ben Frost & Daníel Bjarnason’s brought over to the Centre their score inspired by Solaris, the 1972 seminal film by Andrei Tarkovsky (in itself based on the novel by Stanislaw Lem (1961)). The film delves in posthuman disturbing metaphysics, also acclaimed as one of sci-fi’s masterpieces and a real a visual gem. The project was commissioned by Unsound in 2010 to be performed with Krakow’s Sinfonietta Cracovia. The starting point of Music for Solaris was Ben Frost’s dissatisfaction with the original score. The work itself was incepted from direct dialogue with the film, with Frost and Bjarnason improvising to film images on piano and heavily processed electric guitars, trying to keep close to Tarkovsky’s realization of the narrative – which, in turn, was of course drawn from Lem’s book. Frost and Bjarnason’s compositions include the futuristic atmospheres and pulses associated with sci-fi soundtracks, but growing up on the warmer qualities of the string orchestra, piano and guitar riffs.
Alongside the music, there’s a video projection designed Brian Eno and Nick Robertson. Images from the original film manipulated by the artists show faces of characters slowly morphing into view and from one to another. Mixing with some images of Pieter Bruegel’s painting The Hunters in the Snow melted away contributing to the isolation and eerie feeling. Some colour-field abstractions hover on screen until a static yellow appears giving a sense of intense colour burning.
The result feels otherworldly and unsettlingly odd throughout the performance, and the visuals -envisaged not to distract from the music-, just sums up to this unsteady feeling. At the end of the performance, there was a Q&A session with Unsound’s Director Mat Schulz, which brought an interesting discussion on the creative process of the project.